Bradenton DDA wowed by plans for F2 power boat races on Manatee River

jajones1@bradenton.comFebruary 26, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Formula 2 powerboat races planned Jan. 30-31, 2015, for the Manatee River between Bradenton and Palmetto could attract as many as 75,000 people, event facilitator Mike Fetchko told members of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority on Tuesday.

Fetchko, of Integrated Strategic Marketing, has been working with local officials to bring the circuit races, modeled on a larger event in Pittsburgh, to Bradenton.

The Pittsburgh races are held during the Fourth of July holiday and draw a crowd of 600,000 with an economic impact of $25 million, Fetchko said.

"You won't have 600,000 here, so don't worry," Fetchko quickly added.

In addition to the races, there would be a full day of activities, including extreme sports, a dog show, family entertainment, a ski show, live music, and a choreographed fireworks show, said DDA Executive Director Dave Gustafson.

Organizers also want to incorporate the arts community into the event.

Many unknowns remain, including a name for the event, an exact location and coordination with state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Bradenton City Council members are set to be briefed on the event at their 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday.

"There are many more steps to go," Gustafson said.

Development of Riverwalk as a community amenity served as a catalyst for planning the event, Fetchko said.

"We are trying to harness all your assets here and do it right," letchko said, adding that it would stimulate quality of life and the economy.

"We appreciate all you did with your Riverwalk. We love it," letchko said.

The races and associated activities are designed to appeal to local residents, as well as international tourists and race fans.

Power boat racing is essentially "NASCAR on the water," Gustafson saod.

Organizers are not planning to sell alcohol at the event. There are already plenty of places downtown where it is available, Gustafson said.

Neither are they planning to use DDA funds.

Ninety percent of the funds needed have already been raised through sponsorships.

Organizers are still looking for several other sponsors, including a bank.

DDA Chairman Vernon DeSear said afterward that his initial reaction was "pride and excitement."

The F2 races could become a signature event for the area on par with the World Rowing Championship and others, DeSear said.

"We have worked so hard to address our city and the surrounding area as a destination. I am very proud of that," he said.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1.

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